This week was the Law School staff and faculty holiday party, which was preceded by ice skating on the Midway. It occurred to me that we should tell you about our neighborhood, so today I'll talk about the Midway.
The Midway Plaisance lies between Washington and Jackson Parks. It's a long grassy mall (like the Washington Mall, rather than the Mall of America) that was laid out at the turn of the twentieth century by legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. (Well, not entirely - Olmstead's vision for the Midway included a Venetian canal that was never built.) The Midway was the focal point of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition (popularly known as the World's Fair), and gave its name to the sideshow sections of amusement parks. Directly across from where the Law School currently stands was the famous Ferris Wheel, a huge contraption with 36 cars - each 24 feet long, 13 feet wide, and 10 feet high, and weighing 26,000 pounds. The Museum of Science and Industry sits at one end of the Midway in the last surviving building from the 1893 Fair.
Now managed by the Chicago Park District, the Midway runs right through the University of Chicago campus, and the Law School (together with the School of Social Service Administration, the Harris School of Public Policy, an undergraduate dorm, and several other University buildings) is on the South side of it.
Today, the Midway holds an ice skating rink (which becomes an in-line skating rink in the summer), two beautiful gardens - the Reader's Garden and the North Winter Garden (a South Winter Garden is part of the future plan for the Midway) and several interesting pieces of public art. There are also large expanses of lawn that serve as soccer fields, softball fields, football fields - fields for pretty much any sport you can dream up. Law students can often be found engaged in intramural sports here or in a rousing (and occasionally dangerous) game of snow football.
To learn more about the history of the Midway and the 1893 World's Fair, you can read about this walking tour. Or you can pick up Erik Larson's book Devil in the White City, which chronicles the Fair, the Midway, and the life of a serial killer who preyed on visitors to the Fair. Better yet, come see the Midway for yourself. (I promise - the serial killer is loooooong gone.) In any season, there's something to do, see, and enjoy on the Midway Plaisance. And don't forget to pop into the Law School for a visit while you're here...